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Posts Tagged ‘logic

There are legitimate reasons for opposing an idea, e.g., being the devil’s advocate so that the idea is better explored.

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One awful reason is opposing a good idea just to stay in power and even though you know better. The video above illustrates how a politician tried to use COVID-19 case numbers and the real-world effectiveness of three vaccines to argue against mass immunisation.

Another example is this ignorant response to how N95 masks work.

On the surface, there seems to be a logic to the numbers. But these belie how N95 masks work (see video below).

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I have cited the video before because it was illuminating. Proper N95 masks work like a layers of spider webs that trap particles. They also electrostatically attract much smaller particles. It is medium-sized particles that tend to pass through, hence the moniker of being 95% effective.

The person who tweeted might also not know that viruses do not travel on their own. In the case of COVID-19, they are in droplets of water that we breath, cough, and sneeze. This makes these particles varied but larger in size.

The good thing about the presence of shared knowledge that is valid and reliable is that we can overcome ignorance. The sad thing is that some choose to wilfully remain ignorant by focusing on flawed logic.

Pokémon is 25-years-old this year, so it is unsurprising that some YouTube channels are creating content to grab a piece of the attention pie.

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However, the content is not created equally. This list-based channel opted to use a perpetuated misconception to highlight “evolutions” that make no sense.

The misconception: The pocket monsters undergo metamorphosis and not evolution, even though the latter is the term used in games.

If we used biological knowledge, we might recall how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly by metamorphosis. Neither form looks like the other and makes “zero sense” from a layperson’s view. But this is perfectly logical with some basic developmental biology.

I can watch the video for entertainment value, but I cannot switch off the parts of my brain that that remind me how such videos perpetuate misconceptions, have great reach, and are more palatable than a textbook.

The script of such videos also provides a veneer of analysis — look at how these transformations make no sense or look at the mistakes the developers of Pokémon made. A more critical and informed content creator could have dug deeper and pointed out the differences between evolution and metamorphosis.

Sadly, the science logic videos are not as likely to draw clicks and eyeballs. This is a symptom of a race to the bottom. It is also a reminder to me to remind teachers not to use YouTube videos simply because they are “interesting” or “engaging”.

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It was from this QI compilation that I heard the description of David Mitchell’s rants as “angry logic”. The comedian and presenter is well-known for his biting but humorous critiques of anything he thinks needs pointing out.

I do not make new year resolutions. The closest thing I will do this year is embrace my inner uncle and share some angry logic. But unlike a neighbourhood uncle who might express opinions without fact, I rely on my background as a pedagogue and academic to vent as truthfully as information dictates and with reasonable indignation.

At face value the opinions expressed in the newspaper clipping below meet the basics of logic.

But lay logic is not enough if it is not informed by science.

Basic scientific literacy contributes to logical thinking. Critical elements include:

  • Not linking assumptions
  • Testing observations rigorously
  • Filling knowledge gaps with established theory and research

It takes confidence to share one’s thoughts. It takes competence to share them convincingly.

What would prompt Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, to weigh in on Pepsi? It was an advertisement so ill-conceived and reviled that the company had to withdraw it [NYT] [Wired].

Stephen Colbert gave this withering but humorous critique of the ad (click here for the segment).

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It would be easy to accuse Colbert of being mean because he was making fun of the company in the name of entertainment. However, such critiques are deeper and more important than we might think.

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Vox unpacked what Colbert and others do: They inform in an easy to digest manner and they leverage on not being neutral.

While proper news channels might try to report just the black or white facts, we recognise today that most issues are subjective and nuanced greys.

Satirists use fun and laughter, and in doing so, disarm their audiences and combine emotion with logic. They inform and educate in ways that not many teachers have been taught or believe in.

They embrace subjectivity and make a stand. They combine creativity with critical thought. They call bullshit when they see it.

The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something. -- Jon Stewart.

This blog entry might look like a departure from what I usually reflect about. But I will find some way to link it to educational technology.

Like most Singaporeans, I received SG50 stickers in the mail. I thought that the sticker for loan sharks expressing themselves “artistically” in the heartlands was missing.

Earlier this week, I also received a threatening letter in my snail mail box. I should point out that I am not in financial trouble, I have not borrowed money from anyone, and I do not owe anyone money.

Here is a digital scan of the letter. On the left is something some Chinese people burn as currency for the dead. On the right is the latest in a string of varied but infrequent harassments.

A quick read will let you know that 1) my neighbour is the one in trouble, 2) the loan shark is using me to get to him, and 3) the latter has terrible grammar.

Here is some background information first.

There are four apartments on my floor. Three have been hit with paint, mine included. I have received one anonymous phone call. All this has happened in the space of about a year and a half. All three of us have CCTVs now so our floor looks like Big Brother central.

We have reported all the harassments to the police. This latest version includes a Malaysian phone number and a local bank account number. I am guessing that the phone number will be linked to a prepaid account. But I hope that the police can use the bank account to track the criminal.

The investigation is underway and I put security measures in place a while ago. So what else is there to do? I thought I might correct the loan shark’s grammar. Here is my attempt:

To the occupant, [Notice that I am not using ALL CAPS.]

Your neighbour [You spelt this big word correctly, kudos!] (insert name and personal information) owes me money. [No need to try to be bombastic with “outstanding debt”.] Tell him to call me to settle the debt within three days. [You should date your letter otherwise we may not share the same timeframe.]

[Start a new paragraph as you are now turning your attention to me.] If I do not get a call, I will lock your gate [Not door because I doubt you have the keys and I can unlock it from the inside] and throw paint on your door. [Be specific about the door because throwing paint upward might leave you with a red face.]

Don’t get into trouble [Is there necessary trouble? If not, there is no need to say unnecessary trouble]. Call me by (insert date and time) [Not NOW. I have to call the police first. How about if I text you to see if the timing is convenient?]

Pay me now! (provide bank account number). [Wait, do you want me to pay my neighbour’s debt or do you want my neighbour to pay you? If you are using a template, remember to edit the content. How about you pay me for this lesson on grammar and logic? If you can’t afford it, you know who to borrow money from.]

Sign off [Always sign off whether or not you want to wish someone something. You can be proper without being polite.]

[Here is a freebie on your design: Do you think that it is wise to extend your circle of intimidation, but in the process bring more police attention to your activities?]

Lest I be accused of not taking this seriously, know that I am. I have done what I can within legal limits.

What is the edtech lesson here?

Loan sharks are resourceful. They go out of their way to get their message across. For example, they use old media like paint, experiential learning like chains, and phone calls before the Personal Data Protection Act kicked in. They might have also used spell check in Word to get spelling right (but they need to pay attention to the squiggly lines that highlight bad grammar and sentence structure).

Now they use mobile technology for communication and e-banking for money transfers. Given time, there might be social media intrusions, augmented reality messages, and virtual reality projections.

Loan sharks move quickly with the times. How about teachers?

I have shared this slide and quote before. I use it at some talks I give. As juicy a sound bite as it is, I have also mentioned before that I wish I did not have to use it to make a point. But as long as teachers refuse to burst their classroom bubbles, I will keep saying it.

Perhaps teachers have a lesson to learn from loan sharks about moving with the times. I hope that it does not take threatening letters, chained gates, and vandalized doors to feel left behind.

Let us say that you read the news about how 13 Singapore school websites were hacked into. The news reported that sites were all hosted on the same server [1] [2] [3].

After the hacker, what would the next most logical thing be to blame? I say first the security of the server and then the people who maintain it. You do not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to follow that logic.

But let us say that you are part of an IT security team of another system. You decide to take this opportunity to remind users to be secure.

What is the logic of this?

This is like reminding you to lock your car in a parking structure that threatens to collapse. This is like reminding you to use two-factor authentication for online banking when the doors and safe are easy to open.

I agree that most breaches stem from human factors. But some people would rather create the fear of being responsible for a breach than follow and present a logical course of action.

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